My earliest summer memories are in my parents' garden. From May through September my nails were grubby from digging and burying, watering and weeding, planting and harvesting. Back then those sweaty hours were nothing more than a chore that needed to be finished before I could move on to joys of childhood summer.
But as I grew older the work grew into something different as well. I began to love watching seeds turn into sprouts, waking up to fresh blooms, and plucking that first tomato of the season. There was such joy in those tangible rewards of bouquets of green beans and vases of flowers.
Eventually I moved away from my parents' garden and found a patch to grow produce of my own. However, this new place provided no sign of blissful childhood memory. The earth was rocky, heat unrelenting, and the plants that survived withstood aphids, deer, and rabbits. At one point, a root fungus and two different species of beetles invaded my poor squash plants at the same time. And the raccoons were the worst because they avoided the cantaloupe just long enough for hope to bloom—only to snatch it (along with the melons) away in the night.
As I kid, I found joy in the product of the labor, but during those hours in that thankless soil the adult version of myself discovered joy in labor itself. There’s something unbelievably satisfying in the sweat, soreness, and frustration that go into the process of creation, and those long hours are often as valuable as the final result. So despite my disappointment I kept at it, finding peace in the labor, and every next season coaxed a little more out of the ground than the year before.
A little over a year ago I moved again, this time to an arid climate with an apartment balcony for a backyard. In the spring I bought four tomato plants, stuck them in large buckets and left them on my balcony, not expecting much. Amazingly, those four plants have yielded more fruit than any in my difficult garden, and more importantly they remind me that patience and consistency are never wasted, and that the work of planting, fertilizing, and cultivating will inevitably grow into beautiful fruit—even if it can’t be eaten.
- Amy Huckaba